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World leaders look to tackle coasts' issues

ST. PETE BEACH — The discoverer of the Titanic, a Nobel-winning climate researcher and officials from 29 countries are visiting the Tampa Bay area this week for a conference about coastal cities.

They will discuss problems that face seaside communities, like rising ocean levels, pollution, the need for drinking water, and the danger of flooding from hurricanes and tsunamis.

"We'll also talk about possible solutions, such as how to make things sustainable," said Jyotika Virmani, a conference organizer and director of the Florida Coastal Ocean Observing System Consortium. "For example, could we get water out of the air and use that?"

Undersea explorer Robert Ballard will speak at Thursday's closing dinner, which is open to the public. While probably best known for finding the wreckage of the Titanic, Ballard also is admired by scientists for helping to discover undersea thermal vents that support previously undiscovered types of marine life.

The Coastal Cities Summit, at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach, also will feature a talk by Martin Parry, a key official in the United Nations panel on climate change who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. Also speaking are representatives of the World Bank, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other experts, including state and local officials. More than 250 have registered for the event.

The Tampa Bay area is a logical place for the conference because "we have many of the issues that coastal areas around the world have in common," said Chris D'Elia, a University of South Florida professor and director of the International Ocean Institute-USA.

Also, D'Elia said, St. Petersburg is home to several institutions that work in marine science, including USF, the U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA and the state's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The ocean institute organized the conference, along with USF's College of Marine Science and its Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions, with help from the city of St. Petersburg. The conference's sponsors include Progress Energy and the St. Petersburg Environmental Research Center.

Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report.

fast facts

Closing speaker

The dinner with Robert Ballard will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pavilion at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort, 5500 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach. Tickets are $125. For more information, call (813) 974-5692.

World leaders look to tackle coasts' issues 11/16/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 7:53am]
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